Passion of a street artist for his job

  • November 23, 2014

While ambling in an early morning at the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens last weekend, my eyes stopped at a middle-age artist who is surrounded by many pieces of silhouette pictures. My mind flashed back to the old days when I was a little girl, coming here with my mother and asking a shadow cutter make us silhouette portraits as commemorative items for the trip. Even back then and now, I cannot help staring at the artist doing some little magic with his scissors and paper to create mini side view pictures of people’s heads. I, right in that moment, wondered if the artist presenting in front of me and the one in my memory is the same person.

Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, street artists, silhouette artist, street vendors

A little customer and his mother enjoys the silhouette work of Ly Van The 

Many cultural values of HCMC are urged to be preserved in the process of modernizing, yet few people pay attention to long-standing artistic professions in the city, especially street artists.  Many street artists left their jobs, while some drifted here and there, worked occasionally in cultural parks or at some events.  The simple works to embellish the beauty of life has been no longer appreciated by urban residents. Not only the talent of artists but also their career faded away years after years when there is neither successor nor place to work.

Among very few people who still pursue the passion, Ly Van The, 51, has been working as a shadow cutter for 27 years in the city. Learning very first lessons from a teacher who brought silhouette art to Vietnam from France, The spent one year mastering skills of shaping people’s upper half body on paper before coming into the profession. It now takes him only 30-45 seconds to finish a silhouette picture.

Although he had to stop his work for a while due to space issue, he continued to find ways to make the work that he loves. “In the 80s, it was easy to do my work inside the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens. However, when the management board was changed later on, it was more difficult to ask for permission. I could not earn enough for a living if I worked outside the zoo because people only gathered in public places at weekend or in holidays. Therefore, I took up a photography course at HCMC Photography Association to make a living, so that I can keep following my passion for silhouette art,” The recalled how he overcame the toughest time in his career.

When being asked why the number of silhouette artists is getting smaller and smaller, he explained, “I have taught many students the shadow cutting. I taught them everything I have learned and showed them all of my experiences without hiding anything, yet hardly anybody does this as a job for life.  Of course, it’s hard to blame them because there is no way they can present their works full time in the city. Even I myself have to work as a photographer on weekdays and as a shadow cutter at weekend. Sometimes, people invite me to cut silhouette portraits at some companies’ events or wedding parties. I keep doing this because I just cannot give it up. ”

Despite difficulties, The still has a strong belief that his job is special and meaningful, at least it is to himself. He excitedly told about old customers who came back to him for a silhouette pictures with their husband, wife or kids. If one does not witness the clever hands of the artist perform each stroke carefully and accurately, as well as his sparkling eyes and cheerful attitude, they can never define what is so-called the passion for a lifetime job.

Now you can easily find street vendors in downtown areas but the artists. There are only some portrait painting artists in the parks, few people making cartoon characters from balloons at amusement parks and definitely no silhouette artist on the street. These street artists have one thing in common: the love for art. Most of the time, they pursue art not only for subsistence purposes but also to satisfy the desire to create beauty. They bring beauty to life with a pure passion and carefree attitude.

Source: VietNamNet


Related Articles